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USS Columbia Welcomes New Commanding Officer

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071030-07
Release Date: 10/30/2007 1:01:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Cynthia Clark, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Columbia (SSN 771) hosted a change of command ceremony, Oct. 26, here.

Cmdr. Craig Blakely relieved Cmdr. Gene Sievers as commanding officer. Capt. David Marquet, former commander, Submarine Squadron 3, was guest speaker at the event and attributed Columbia's successes during Sievers' tenure as commanding officer to his, "tremendous energy, renewed dedication, high standards and his willingness to get the work done."

"As a result of Cmdr. Sievers and his crew, Columbia was ready when called," said Marquet. "The work that Cmdr. Sievers and the Columbia crew have accomplished has been extraordinary. With a reflection of the record of what Columbia has accomplished these past few years… I personally, and your nation, owe you a profound debt of gratitude."

Prior to the guest speaker's remarks, Capt. Jeffrey Powers, commander, Submarine Squadron 7, presented Sievers with the Meritorious Service Medal.

After assuming command in November 2004, Sievers brought Columbia from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard to operational status. Columbia participated in Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2006, an unscheduled surge deployment, as well as departing for their scheduled deployment 45-days early. Columbia also received the Arleigh Burke award for the most improved operational unit in the Pacific Fleet and the Submarine Squadron Three Battle Efficiency Award in 2005.

Sievers thanked his crew for their abilities and dedication, as well as his fellow commanding officers in the submarine community.

"Even the best submarine we sail ... takes a talented crew of men skilled in the art of submarine warfare," he said. "I have been blessed with such talent throughout my tour. I am deeply proud to serve in a warfare community that serves, even as we speak, in forward areas alone and unafraid. I have a sense of safety in the fact that I know if it goes bump in the night, one of the men I serve in command with is out there watching it, recording it and figuring out how to defeat it."

While assuming command of Columbia, Blakely gave his new crew the task to honor the cities in Illinois, Missouri and South Carolina for which the submarine is named.

"I am proud to take over this dedicated and well-trained crew," he said. "I will challenge you everyday to improve yourself in the operation of Columbia and honor these great cities. There will be good days and not so good days but I will always be behind you."

Sievers' next tour is as senior member of the Training and Evaluation Team on the staff of Commander, Submarine Force in Norfolk. His sea tours include USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720), USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) (Blue) and USS George Bancroft (SSBN 643) Gold. He is a 1987 graduate of West Virginia University.

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